Stuart Forster takes a walk on Tyneside and provides an overview of top places to visit in Newcastle and Gateshead in North East England.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in North East England, has long been regarded as one of Europe’s leading party destinations. The city is a popular destination for a weekend break. It offers lots of things to do and places to eat. This guide will give you travel inspiration for the compact city which is linked by bridges to neighbouring Gateshead.
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Visiting Newcastle Castle
For heritage and history lovers, there’s also lots to see and do in Newcastle. The ‘new castle’ which lends its name to the city is centuries old: it dates from the reign of King Henry II, 840 years ago. You can test your fitness by walking in Newcastle. Why not climb the steep, honey-coloured stone steps to visit the great hall before watching a video that explains the role of the fortress through the ages: for centuries it stood as a bulwark of royal authority against Scottish invasion into England.
The rooftop of the recently restored keep offers panoramas over the city and across the River Tyne to the neighbouring town of Gateshead. From the battlements — which were added during Victorian times to make the castle look more medieval — you can watch trains rumbling along Britain’s East Coast mainline, between Edinburgh and London: you might be surprised to learn that the castle came close to being demolished when the tracks were being laid out. The old castle, in case you’re wondering, was a wooden fortress — built on the orders of conquering Normans, in the late-11th century — to impose their authority on the northern reaches of the kingdom.
Bessie Surtees House
To continue your walk in Newcastle, you can meander downhill towards the Newcastle Quayside, past the old city walls, you’ll pass the free-to-visit Jacobean merchant’s home that’s known as Bessie Surtees House. With a half-timbered façade and wood-panelled rooms, the well-preserved building stands as a reminder of the riverfront dwellings of merchants who made their wealth from freight transported on ships that once docked on the Newcastle Quayside. The historic property is named after a young woman, the daughter of the city’s mayor, who eloped with John Scott on the night of 18 November 1772 and married.
Bessie’s father may have disapproved of her choice, but Scott became a Member of Parliament, in 1801, the country’s Lord Chancellor and, in time, the first Earl of Eldon. That’s a name you’ll hear if you plan on going shopping in the city: Eldon Square is an indoor shopping centre with branches of high street stores plus a sizable food court.
Top restaurants in Newcastle
Bessie Surtees House lies roughly equidistant from the Tyne Bridge and Newcastle’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, House of Tides, which opened in 2014. Chef Kenny Atkinson and his team serve seasonal tasting menus in another of the city’s historic merchants’ houses. It’s one of many options if you are looking for places to eat in Newcastle city centre.
The arched bridge across the River Tyne, meanwhile bears a striking resemblance to the one that spans Sydney Harbour. Both were designed and built by the Middlesbrough-based Dorman Long Company: though construction of the bridge in New South Wales started first, the Tyne Bridge was the first to open, in 1928. For decades the structure was the chief icon of the city, but now — at least to some extent — it is upstaged by the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Designed for use by pedestrians and cyclists, the newer bridge tilts to let ships pass below when sailing along the River Tyne, an act that is termed ‘winking’.
Shows at the Sage Gateshead
As part of your walk in Newcastle, you can stroll along the Quayside — which on Sundays hosts a market at which food, craft items and vintage goods are sold — you’ll see a shining building with bulbous curves up on the hill on the opposite bank of the river. That’s the Sage Gateshead, a performing arts venue that was designed by Foster + Partners.
The riverfront is home to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, located on the far side of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. In 2011 the free-to-visit gallery was the venue for the prestigious Turner Prize art exhibition, named in honour of the painter J.M.W. Turner. Sited in a former flour mill, the space is used to host regularly changing exhibitions.
Top places to visit in Newcastle
If you prefer photography stop by the city’s Side Gallery, just off the Newcastle Quayside. Run by the Amber film and photography collective, Side exhibits documentary images. Its collection of photographs by Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen records life on and around Tyneside and has been inscribed into the UNESCO Memory of the World for its outstanding value.
Exploring Grainger Town
Heading along Side then up Dean Street will lead you into the part of Newcastle known as Grainger Town, after the architect Richard Grainger. Typified by elegant, classical facades, the 450 buildings of Grainger Town were erected from the 1820s to 1840s.
The Theatre Royal and Grey’s Monument are two of the best-known landmarks in the city centre. The latter is a column, reminiscent of Nelson’s Column in London, commemorating the role of Charles Grey in the passing of electoral reform bills of the early 1830s, while prime minister. Earl Grey tea was blended to suit the water on his estate in Northumberland. Tours head to the top of Grey’s Monument on the first Saturday of each month, requiring visitors to climb a spiral staircase with 164 steps.
Afterwards, you could treat yourself to a refreshing cup of tea in one of the many cafés in the heart of the city. You can then choose between an afternoon browsing the shops, a stroll around the Laing Art Gallery or learning more about Newcastle’s heritage in the Discovery Museum.
Travel to Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle lies just off the A1 and A69, making it easily reachable by road.
Tyneside is approximately three hours from London by train and 90 minutes from Edinburgh.
DFDS operates a ferry service connecting Newcastle and Amsterdam.
Newcastle International Airport is a 25-minute journey by Metro from the city centre.
Hotels in Newcastle
Planning a break on Tyneside? Search for hotels in Newcastle and Gateshead via Booking.com:
Books about Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Planning a trip to Newcastle upon Tyne? You can buy the following books via Amazon by clicking on the links or cover photos:
Newcastle Then and Now by Rob Kirkup:
Newcastle History Tour by Ken Hutchinson:
Grace McCombie is the author of the Newcastle and Gateshead: Pevsner City Guide:
111 Places in Newcastle That You Shouldn’t Miss by David Taylor:
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post with ideas for sightseeing while walking in Newcastle. If you enjoyed this post, please take a look at this post about galleries and museums displaying art in Newcastle and Gateshead.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning travel writer who lives in the northeast of England. Stuart can be commissioned to write food and travel features about the region and elsewhere, and is available for copywriting assignments.
Illustrating photos are by Why Eye Photography. Why Eye Photography is based in North East England and available for food, travel and portrait photography commissions.
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A version of this post was initially published on Go Eat Do on 29 April 2018.
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